organizing your seeds

gardenmom2(IN Zone 6)January 31, 2009

Ok. Another question from this newby. How do you oldtimer er I mean experts (lol ) organize your seeds. I started out with two boxes. One with my stuff o keep for me and another with my seeds to trade. I had two rows in the trade box, b/c some of the stuff needed divided up. (i wanted to keep a few for myself) or divide it into a couple trades. Now I am kinda ending up with a big mess, as I have traded a few things from this box and a few from the other and then there is the recipe card holder with the little bags that are made up to trade already, and then I have lots in the mail to me and seed order coming and decided I needed to figure this out before I get all the mail > SOOOOOO I thought maybe everyone could post how they do it and give all of us different ideas on organizing and strategy. I am also afraid I am going to miss and not plant something. I am anxious to see the different ideas b/c i know everyone does it different and hope ths helps others, too. Thanks for any and all help. Nichol

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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

Hi Nichol,

I have a storage box I use for my trade seeds. Inside the box, I have tea boxes with the lids ripped off, and I file the seeds alphabetically in those. So the first box is A - B, etc. I also have a tea box in there just for seeds that I plan on giving away as bonuses, and that box is filed alphabetically too. (Coin envelopes, seed packets and those little plastic ziplocks all fit just perfectly in a tea box.)

My husband gave me a beautiful antique wooden seed box, and I keep my personal stash inside of that. Those seeds are organized by when and how to sow. I save junk mail envelopes for this purpose, and label them like this: January/Inside, January/Winter Sow, etc. Then, I sort through my seeds and put the packs in the appropriate envelope. That way, when I'm ready to sow some stuff, I just have to grab the right envelope; no thinking required.

I divvy up any seeds that I plan on trading AND sowing and keep a set in both places. I learned the hard way that if I didn't do that, I would most likely trade them all away and have none left for myself.

As soon as I get seeds from a trade or an order, I look them up to figure out when/how to sow them and then immediately add them to an Excel spreadsheet. I try to go file them right after. Whenever I run out of a seed I'm trading, or add a new seed to the trade box, I update my trade list. Also, once a year in the fall, when I do most of my trading, I take a complete inventory of my trade box, ticking and tying between it and my trade list.

Anyway, that's how I do things; hope it helps!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 11:41AM
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ive got one box with all edibles
one box of annuals
one box of perennials
one box of stuff on my trade list

Im all nice a organized at the moment, but wait a couple weeks till those swap packages come in and then Ill just add a "box of everything else".

I am realizing that the BEST way to be organized is to be realistic about what seeds you are actually going to grow and keep ONLY those. Realizing it and doing it, tho, isnt matching up. hee!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 6:37PM
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sguanzon(z9 AZ)

For the seeds that I am currently trading, I purchased one of those multicompartment plastic thingys (I'm so good with words LOL)in the hardware department at WALMART. I think it was $9.97. It has thirty small plastic drawers on top (which I've labeled A-Z with 4 extras) for smaller seed packets and nine drawers on the bottom labeled A-B-C, D-E-F, G-H-I, etc. for larger seed paks. Works well for me.

Sue G.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 6:41PM
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gardenmom2(IN Zone 6)

Thanks for all of the different ideas. Keep thm going. I may incorporate a mix of all o it. am so afraid of missing something at planting time and as I make more and more packets for trade, it is kinda a chore to look through them over and over. Do you split up all of yor seeds when you first get them, or doyou wait until someoe wants some or how doyou do that part???

Oh, and where is there info about how to plant different seeds. like perennials, annuals and some of the herbs. Someone told me how to plant stevia, but I am unsure about rosmary, and many of the perennials in the book I am reading say it can take 2-8 weeks. Is there info. here about that. I ave been so busy in the trading and swap forums that Ihave nt really gotten to look around.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 10:10PM
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I would set aside the seeds that I KNOW I want to(and can) grow. These dont get traded until I get the amount of plants that I want. I wouldnt list them at all, cuz I (personally) dont intend to trade them just yet.

Also set aside the ones you know you WONT grow, for whatever reason, zone problems, allergy problems, ugly problems (hee), culture problems i.e. if you have really dry conditions take out the seeds that want wet etc. Put these directly on the trade list.

The rest are maybe's that you need to research and make the grow or no grow decisions. The more decisive you are about growing or not, the easier it is to manage your trade inventory.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 10:30PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)

Oh, and where is there info about how to plant different seeds. like perennials, annuals and some of the herbs.

Sure there is. It is called the Winter Sowing Forum.

It comes with a very good and complete set of FAQ and anything not found there, might likely turn up in a search at the forum, or just ask. Then there is all the fun of the WSers. Watch out...I can see you easily developing yet another addiction.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 11:42PM
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gardenmom2(IN Zone 6)

Yeah, LOL. I have just started reading about WS. I am trying to figure out what can be and can't be. I will probably try and printa list. Another question: is there a list somewhere of seeds that can be saved each year?

Another question. If a flower or vege does not include the name hybrid, can it be saved as seed? For example, if a tomato packet does not say heirloom but it does not say hybrid either, is it OP? Flowers?? Oh boy. I am trying to make me a list of what I can save myself. Like my Petunia, Laura Bush. Do I need to google search each and every seed I have to see??? I plan on starting an excel sheet with all of the information but would like to get it the easiest way possible.
Thanks for all of your help guys. I had another question and can't remember it right now. Nichol

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 5:55AM
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I have three boxes. One is for seeds to offer in trade, one is for all perennials I plan to grow and the last one is for annuals I plan to grow.

I toss the veggies and annual herbs, ornamental and vines in with the annuals and then place any perennial herbs, ornamentals and vines in with the perennials.

I use plastic zip locks and place a letter of the alphabet on each one. This makes it easy to find seeds when I need them, whether to trade or to sow!

I tried lots of different methods before this and I think everyone comes up with their own method based on what works for them. Try a few things out - you'll find what works best for you in no time!


    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 8:41AM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)

If a flower or vege does not include the name hybrid, can it be saved as seed?
Assuming the veggie, flower, shrub, etc made seeds, almost any seed can be saved. There are however a few that are infertile (sterile). Knowing which ones those are should not be a big concern, as there really are not that many. If you would happen to list some 'saved' seeds, that were known by someone to be 'sterile', chances are someone would post that info and inform you. Often seeds from hybrids will not come true from seed, yet they will make for some 'nice' pretties anyway. Example, Neon Sedum is a hybrid (I believe). A member saved seed from it and grew it into a plant. I received a plant from the saved Neon seed. I also have Neon Sedum growing that I bought as a plant. The sedum grown from the saved Neon seed is different than Neon. In fact, I like it even better. If I ever trade the plant, I too will trade the plant or cuttings as a sedum grown from saved Neon seed.

I have listed seeds from some irises that I saved. I imagine that they are all hybrids. In growing them out, it is anyone's guess as the what the resulting offspring may look like. They 'could' resemble the mother who made the seeds, or they could look like the father if they happened to cross with irises nearby, or even things in their parentage on back. I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of plants and blooms they produce. I am also looking forward to this year doing some 'deliberate' crosses of irises. I also hope to do some daffodil crosses as they are a new obsession with me, and I would love to grow one that I would someday be proud to have registered. The same with the irises.

For example, if a tomato packet does not say heirloom but it does not say hybrid either, is it OP?
If it does not say Hybrid or F1 when you buy it, one can assume that it is an OP variety. Depending upon how old the variety is, it may or may not be considered an HL.
I for one do not save seeds from Hybrid tomatoes, though others I see do, as one just never knows what the resulting tomatoes 'might' be like. With about 12,000 tomato varieties available, I am not interested in seeing what a saved seed from a hybrid produces...too many tomatoes, too little time, energy, and space to try them all...sigh. There are however 'some' tomatoes that are sold as hybrids, yet the saved seeds do actually produce tomatoes very very similar to the Hybrid seed, imho. More on that can be found at The Tomato Forum Watch out...another easy addiction can be picked up there.

I am trying to make me a list of what I can save myself. Like my Petunia, Laura Bush.
Yes, save Laura! When listing your seeds, just note that they are saved from your garden. Most will know, or will find out that they may, or may not be close to the Laura from from Commercial seed which I suspect is a Hybrid.

Ok...I just checked my page. I have not noted that all my seeds are 'saved' seed from my garden, though I did note that some were rec in trades. If and when I get together some additional seeds for trading, and they are commercial, I will note that they are commercial as opposed to being saved.

In looking at lists if there is no mention of the source of the seed, I 'usually' assume it is 'saved' seed. For example, if I see someone has 10-15 varieties of poppies, or morning glories, and there is no mention of the source, I assume they are saved seeds. I also assume that they will likely have crossed, but know that I will be pleased with whatever it produces., when I package my seed for trades, I note the year I collected it on the pack along with my GW name, or that they are commercial along with the year. That will help a trader who has too many seeds to grow in one season (now who could that be? Surely no one here on this forum has that 'problem'.) I for one will be making a point to plant a lot of my older seeds before they get another year older. Hopefully there will be at least a little germination of each variety, as I only need one or two plants then to make more seed that can be collected fresh later this year. And so the cycle goes.

Do I need to google search each and every seed I have to see???
It is not necessary, and it is often hard to determine by searching on line if something is a hybrid or not(IMHO).
Just noting if the seeds are 'saved', from a trade, or 'Commercial' should be enough info when listing or posting them for trade.

Please bear in mind, that those are just 'my' opinions, and there may likely be others with different opinions.

I hope others will weigh in on your great questions. I imagine there are others who might make different assumptions.'s that for being loquacious

Sue...who has been waiting for a chance to be able to use that word

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 11:36AM
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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

Hi Nichol,

Some thoughts for you:

"Do you split up all of your seeds when you first get them, or do you wait until someone wants some or how do you do that part???"

With seeds I purchase or receive in trades, I do pretty much what Doris does and usually don't put them on my trade list until after I'm done sowing. However, when I harvest something that I want to sow, and I have plenty of it, I will divy it up right away and add some to my sow stash and some to my trade list/trade box.

"Oh, and where is there info about how to plant different seeds. like perennials, annuals and some of the herbs. Someone told me how to plant stevia, but I am unsure about rosmary, and many of the perennials in the book I am reading say it can take 2-8 weeks."

I use the following databases a lot to figure out when I want to start my seeds. I.e., if the database says a seed needs a cold period, I will know I need to winter sow it in January/February cuz that's the only time we get 'cold' temps. Most seeds are pretty forgiving though, and you will be fine just throwing them out the door without looking up info on them. However, if you enjoy research, as I do, there's lots of good info at these sites:

A great resource for determining whether a particular seed requires cold or warm temps to germinate is the Seed Germination Database at the Backyard Gardener site.

The Seed Site is a wonderful resource. It has pics of teeny-tiny seedlings to help you identify what's coming up in containers that have lost their labels and also has a good germination database.

Tom Clothier's site has germination databases for perennials, annuals/biennuals, penstemons(?!?) and trees/shrubs

Lastly, if you can't find germination info at any of the above. B & T World seeds lists 35,000 seeds and has germination info on most of them.

You can look up plants at:

Re hybrids coming true. Not much to add to Sue's excellent post, except that I have become hooked on growing rose's from seeds. Like hybrid daylilies, hybrid roses have such complex ancestories that the babies are often quite different from mom; Sometimes they are butt ugly, but sometimes they are really, really lovely and the payoff is quite satisfying. (It's cheaper than gambling in Vegas...)

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 12:50PM
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gardenmom2(IN Zone 6)

Thanks guys !!! You are AWESOME !!! The answers are wonderful. Almost as good as the seed trading itself LOL HHHAAAAA. No really, the information is incredible. Thanks so much. Nichol

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 7:22PM
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alwaysagarden(CA 9b)

Cool way to keep your seeds in order! I love tea and have a ton of tea boxes so as my seed stash grows I may try your method to keep things straight.

Sue and Susan... thank you so much for the information. You two really know your stuff!

Cindy : )

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 5:47PM
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jaleeisa(6b Oklahoma)

I have large manila envelopes for each type- vines, plants, zinnias, coleus, etc, then envelopes for things like my Naughty Garden, Fairy Garden, etc. Things that I want for a specific bed goes into it's envelope. Then I have an envelope of seeds that I want to plant, but haven't decided exactly where. Everything in the vines, plants and individually named envelopes are for trades. Everything I'm keeping are in the ones marked for a particular garden or are in the MINE envelope :) All these envelopes are in lidded plastic boxes and stand so I can "Let my fingers do the walking" to find what I'm looking for.

As far as dividing... I tend to do that when I get or harvest the seed. That way it's packaged and ready to go. If it's something extra I received as a trade, I leave it in the sender's packaging to preserve where it came from and any info they shared on the packaging.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 5:51AM
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Hi all love all of your ways;;;
I have 4 boxes shoe boxes my son has 13 size feet so big ones---box 1 when I get trades or buy a few my stash box gets what i want to plant
box2 trades go into this box
box3 big trades go into this one and bonus ones also
box4 is my trip seeds from califonia an florida,,really the box of no names, I know some are palms but not what kind,,that's my try it out when I get time box,,
I write every one down on index cards with taped 2-3 seeds on it so i get to identify them later,,with ann and height, so on.
That's how I do it..good forum ladies thanks Lisa

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 4:55PM
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bakemom_gw(z6 Central Ohio)

I am a smarta$$. My seeds from my garden go in the ground/dirt. The others get sent out to other gardeners. Problem solved.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 8:24PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 9:14AM
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I've just organized my seeds using a soft sided zippered CD case. I love it. I can sit down with a catalog and my binder at the table with a cuppa and shop!

I also downloaded packets to print so that I could save my seeds.

Here is a link that might be useful: Seed Binder: Garden Organization Project

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 1:24PM
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the thingy sue is talking about is awesome! its for holding screws, nuts and bolts, them type of things. if i'm right. my F-I-L has one, very useful!!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2010 at 9:32PM
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I'm thinking of going with the when to grow organizational tip mentioned in an earlier post for my box of seeds that I hope to plant in the garden. The trade box is alphabetical. The only problem is half of it is botanical names and the other half are common names.

How do you alphabetize if you do?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 7:14AM
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jensyen ( z7 MD )(7a)

I made an ideabook of 'Seed Trading Methods' that you might want to see. It has organizer files for seeds packaged for trades and plantings. Plastic bag storage for received seeds from trades and boxed storage for harvested seeds. To see it all just click on my name to go to my ideabook.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2015 at 4:52PM
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